Various Thoughts on Disability and Human Rights
I did a bit more reading on this missing women, someone made a site that has profiles of all the women Pickton is being charged with murdering. I was sadly not terribly shocked to see that a number of the murdered women had disabilities of various kinds, mainly brain related disabilities like manic depression and developmental disabilities. I think it’s something we don’t recognize, that a lot of survival sex workers are people with disabilities. I remember when two women I knew started doing sex work again it was because they weren’t able to survive on their disability payments and sex work was the only kind of job they had access to that paid well and didn’t involve a set schedule.
You can read about the murdered and missing women here.
Disability does pay crap. And I’m not sure why we as a society think that’s okay. I was reading somewhere about Community Treatment Orders and how arbitrary they are. An example was given that someone on disability or welfare who has only one piece of food in their cupboards could be hospitalized involuntarily for not being able to take care of themselves, even if they have no food simply because they’re living in poverty.
I really think this anniversary has changed a lot of what I feel about the hospital. I used to be really upset that it all happened to me. Now I’m really upset that this happens everyday to a lot of people. And things have happened during this anniversary that have made me feel more in touch with the larger scope of disability rights activists. First there was the Ashley “Treatment,” and then my body being on the verge of organ failiure due to my medication, and then learning about the Critical Disability Studies program, and then reading blogs of other people with disabilities, being denied proper medical treatment because of my disability, deciding to try life without psych meds, and then the saddest of all, finding out another bipolar person died because of their disability. I’ve realized it’s not useful for me to just hold it all inside and feel insular. My experience and feelings are all valid, I just mean that I want to have more contact and alliances with other people with disabilities, of all kinds, and to try and create change around it.
I wanted to be really conscious of what was going on in my healing process this anniversary, so I expected to go through it in a certain way, dealing with certain things. That didn’t happen. But I think it turned out better this way. It feels more like joining a larger world of people struggling with these issues than being all on my own. And I think I’m even more hyper aware of my issues being largely a human rights issue. Why did anyone think the psych ward was a good place for me? How come I had no say in my treatment? And why the hell did people keep assuming I had left my body and they could treat me like shit and I wouldn’t remember? I remember stuff. I had feelings. But somehow I became a non-human for six weeks, and people assumed that was okay, and then wondered why I had such a hard time after.
Having a major psychotic episode was not the worst thing that happened to me. Being hospitalized, the hospital itself, was specifically what fucked me up. Taking medication is what specifically fucked me up. The way people treated me was what made me want to die. Hearing and feeling things that weren’t there wasn’t the big issue that has haunted me. In fact, psychosis was actually pleasant and therapeutic until everyone got terrified and incarcerated me.
Here’s a radical thought: what if psychosis is the minds way of healing itself? It’s like in medicine, symptoms are cured but illnesses are not. I think psychosis is a symptom. We’re finally now realizing that fevers are an important aspect of the immune system fighting off a virus, and while people still try to get rid of fevers, that practice is falling out of favour.
Psychotic episodes allowed to go through their natural process take on average three months. That sounds like a long time, but it’s actually not really. If I had a choice between what I went through and a psychotic episode lasting three months, I would go with the episode. I think there were some things I was trying to heal that I didn’t get to finish up, and it’s taken me WAY longer because I wasn’t allowed to heal the way I was meant to heal.
I think we need to take a different look at psychosis. It is not necessarily a negative thing to undergo, as long as people aren’t forcibly injecting you with Thorazine and strapping you down to a bed for hours while you scream and ignoring requests for medical attention and yelling at you and telling you you’re not human and teasing you about having to behave to get proper care. The horrors of mental illness are the horrors we place on it.
I think there is something I adopted from the drug culture that actually helps me out more than medical intervention. People using psychedelic drugs often have babysitters, someone not on drugs who will hang around and make sure no one puts their hand on a burner or falls off a roof. It’s a really simple little rule around mind altering drug use, and it’s also a tool that people with mental illnesses have used for years. I had two great babysitters who unfortunately live in other places now, but they could be counted on to spend time with me while I was in danger of committing suicide. There wasn’t a huge power imbalance along with it either, they were just my friends making sure I wasn’t going to get hurt.
I think it’s harder to find a babysitter for a psychotic episode, because it lasts a long time and is way more active than a suicidal depression, but I know that there are alternative places out there and private homes for people in psychosis.
Anyway, I’m really liking that this anniversary has brought me to a point where I want to be active within the world in making sure human rights violations don’t continue to happen to people with disabilities. I think there are still things I’m not as aware of as I could be, particularly with non MI related disabilities, but I like that I am learning them. Finding out about other people with disabilities is teaching me more about myself than I expected.